The Sunday Spin: Weekends in the Hospital and A New Hope

The Sunday Spin, Episode 5: “A New Hope”

Dude Ranch by Blink 182

weekends working in the hospital

After a brief hiatus while on PICU (the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), I am back in action! I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break, regardless of your denomination or holiday of choice.

Working at a private children’s hospital, the presence (and presents) of Christmas were certainly felt throughout the wards. Being on PICU, I totally lucked out this holiday season… In exchange for working a 28 hour call on Christmas day, I got a 4 day ultra-platinum weekend – New Year’s Eve weekend!!!

For those who haven’t experienced call in the hospital quite yet, allow me to introduce you to your future weekends. Unlike our brilliant friends, who decided to go into careers with the traditional work week (“the ol’ 9-5”), and enjoy their weekends. Instead, those of us who chose medicine unknowingly surrendered our right to a normal weekend long before we even realized what was happening… Thus, a universal system was devised to describe what kind of weekend is approaching.

Black Weekend=No days off, named for its dismal semblance to the Dark Ages.

Partial Weekend=One day off, at least you get a chance to do laundry.

Golden Weekend=Saturday and Sunday off!!! Basically, a normal weekend…

Platinum Weekend=Three days off, albeit rare, these three day weekends often occur during elective rotations when outpatient clinics close for holidays.

And finally, the mother of all weekends, the pearl to my oyster, the frosting to my cake, the mac-daddy of all mac-daddys, the beloved ULTRA-PLATINUM WEEKEND!

As you can probably guess, the ultra-platinum weekend is like the elusive Mewtwo, but less fictitious – a three day weekend during a major holiday! … I have been living this mini-vacation to its fullest extent, driving long distances and ringing in the New Year by falling asleep at 2200…


download sketchymicro

I enjoy a party as much as the next twenty-something year old, but I like my sleep a smidge more… It’s like my Mama always says “life is like a…” no wait, “Nothing good ever happens after 10 o’ clock.” Although I don’t know how true that is. I fondly remember many a night of 2 am shenanigans during college and even more-so during medical school, but alas I am getting older and with my chosen profession, I have learned to claim my sleep whenever I can.

In light of a new year, I would like to take a moment and reflect upon the tragedy that was 2016. Most recently, we mourned the loss of Carrie Fisher, our beloved Princess and every prepubescent male Star Wars fan’s first crush. I mean, come on, that outfit from Tatooine was more skin than I had seen at the beach! But, looking back at Return of the Jedi now, I recognize how blatantly chauvinistic the movie was for Leia Organa to be enslaved by the revolting bloband forced to dance wearing erotic clothing. Very few characters in the Star Wars franchise have been sexualized the way Carrie Fisher was. But, at the same time, she was portrayed as a strong independent women, harboring rebel secrets, enduring imprisonment by the Empire, and saving cute little teddy bears on Endor.

My apologies for nerding out back there… But, I am sad to see the loss of Carrie Fisher. Similarly, we tragically lost David Bowie, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Harper Lee, George Martin, Miss Cleo, Prince, R2-D2, and Admiral Ackbar.  2016 was certainly a loss for music, movies, and the fortune telling industry.

I want to believe that 2017 is going to be a better year, but the horizons already look bleak given the political climate in both the United States and the World.  But, lets not get into such somber and serious topics – this is the Sunday Spin after all! Therefore, I have chosen an amusing album for this week’s spin, which provides a nod to Miss Fisher and sets an optimistic tone for the year to come.

dude ranch blink 182

Who better to ring in 2017 than the raunchy, childish punk rock band from Poway, California: Blink 182. Blinks’ second album, Dude Ranch, was a landmark album for the band and the final album for drummer Scott Raynor, prior to being replaced by Travis Barker (coming from the Aquabats). With the release of “Dammit,” a catchy, fast-paced single, Blink 182 was invited to join the Second Season of Van’s Warped Tour in 1996, which provided mainstream exposure for the band.

Other singles selected from the album include “Apple Shampoo,” “ Josie,” and “D*#% Lips,” which was later renamed “Rich Lips.” As mentioned earlier, “New Hope,” is a track about Mark Hoppus’ hopeless on Princess Leia.

blink 182 vans warped tour

I also really enjoy “Voyeur,” which tells of a pathetic young man sitting in a tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of a girl changing; but instead gets an eyeful of her father… Pretty juvenile, I know. Lastly, I found the inner fold of the album entertaining, as it was designed as a throwback to Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and designed to look like an old time-y postcard.

With that, Happy New Year! Let’s hope for good things to come…




How I scored 269 on the USMLE Step 1

Today we are so excited to introduce Joey, a SketchyMedical user who scored a 269 on the USMLE Step 1! He wrote to us sharing his success, and graciously outlined his study tips and tricks to ensure success on the Step 1.  Joey is happy to share his knowledge with medical students around the world, and is our guest blogger today.  We hope these tips can also help you ace the USMLE Step 1!

how to get a high score usmle step 1

Hello Sketchy friends!

My name is Joey, and I am currently a third-year medical student. I wanted to take a few moments to share some guidance that allowed me to excel on the infamous USMLE Step 1, the anxiety-provoking Goliath that one must pass to advance to the next stage of our long journey. Fortunately, by combining SketchyMedical with some diligence and dedication, I was able perform very well on Step 1, and I’d like to outline how I utilized SketchyMedical (SketchyMicro and SketchyPharm) to insure success on test day.

1. I firmly believe that SketchyMedical is a supplemental tool to incorporate into your Step 1 arsenal.

For me, just subscribing to Sketchy and watching all the videos multiple times (and on 2x speed) was not enough. It’s like when students say they want to get through First Aid at least four times before the USMLE Step 1 – but does passively speed reading the textbook actually help? If I tried going through the SketchyMicro videos as fast as I could, I noticed I started to get overwhelmed and confused by jumbling pictures and treatments together, especially since many classes of bugs are treated so similarly.

sketchypharm sulfonamide

I had to have at least some sort of knowledge and foundation that could be actively retrieved and utilized to make neural connections while listening to the stories and analyzing the illustrations. I can recall the sulfonamide video as I’m writing this and see the fireworks in the background and the mailboxes near the sidewalk. However, it is not enough to just remember the fireworks, a mailbox, and a portable toilet while you are actively taking the test. These are wonderful cues used to jog your memory that purine antagonists affect nucleotide synthesis which in turn can affect RBC and leukocyte production (neutropenia as a side effect); that CD4 counts of 100 and 200 represent cut-offs for sulfonamide use in HV/AIDS patients, and that these drugs are commonly used for UTIs. Your mind has an amazing ability to store information; however, adrenaline and stress during the actual exam may cloud one’s ability to effectively gather what you already know – and SketchyMedical does a fantastic job to counter this natural stress response. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying you should not repetitively watch the videos and look at the illustrations. In fact, you must to solidify the images in your mind, but with the prerequisite of having at least some idea of the subject beforehand in order to be able to apply these mechanisms to clinical vignettes.

SketchyMedical (or another efficient study tool of your choice) plus a foundation of knowledge (either from classroom lectures or textbooks) work together so you can apply these medical principles and mechanisms to clinical situations on the test.

how to get a high score on step 1

2. One must have a system when working through all the SketchyMedical videos.

I found I could retain information from SketchyMedical quite efficiently while integrating it with classwork, question banks, and readings from textbooks (i.e.; First Aid). If you’re covering fungal infections or diabetes pharmacology in class, watch those sections simultaneously in Sketchy.  It’s crucial to understand that Sketchy will not provide every single detail about a process, but it will absolutely help you rummage through the endless amounts of information to tell you a fact that differentiates a class of medications from another class, or give you a fungal characteristic (the size or location of varying fungi) so you can choose the correct answer choice on the exam.  Randomly watching videos does not work (at least, not for me).

sketchymicro usmle step 1

Sketchy is not designed to get you a 99% on your school’s lecture exams, as these tests tend to include minutia you must recall from one or more PowerPoint slides. However, Sketchy will help you hone in on the high yield, crucial facts that you must remember for Step 1. In this respect, SketchyMedical serves as the ultimate filtering and organizational tool. Additionally, you should definitely go back to re-watch videos and/or look at the sketches and corresponding hotspots after getting practice questions wrong on a specific topic. Don’t stop until you are certain you can distinguish and identify what a question is asking: rest assured, questions may have buzzwords or information that may lead you to two specific answer choices, and only offer one word or phrase that serves as the deal breaker. For example, I can picture the Legionella video with the salt falling into the water (hyponatremia), the couple on the dock with the flower (fluoroquinolones), and the furnace on the ship (charcoal- agar). It simply isn’t enough to know that Legionella affects the immunocompromised or causes pneumonia as many bugs cause the same thing. Focus your efforts on what makes something unique.

3. Realize and accept that every Sketchy video and illustration may not click for you.

Everyone has their own preferences. For instance, in the Hepatitis B video, I could never keep the colored lines on the van straight. I know that they are supposed to help the user remember which antigens and antibodies are detectable in variable carrier states, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I personally had to utilize other resources to drill down these points, and I want to tell you that that’s completely acceptable. Memorizing or utilizing different resources over the same topic doesn’t necessarily correlate with a higher score. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot remember exactly every single point.

USMLE Step Hepatitis


4. I recommend trying to tie in some of these stories with your own intimate emotions, personal connections, or imagination.

I found that forming personal connections to symbols can help separate each concrete video -since videos use the same symbols to illustrate the same concept (fireworks for megaloblastic anemia, pencil for penicillin, etc.). The last thing you want to do is mix up the treatment for an organism because you confuse the context of where a pencil was placed!

5. The USMLE Step 1 questions are tricky on purpose.

Like any standardized test, the writers for USMLE Step 1 know that there is a vast amount of resources for students to use to beat their exam, so they have a knack for concealing or portraying information that you may know in a way that you cannot recognize it.  SketchyMedical is very helpful here, as the funny videos help you to recall the symbols and their mechanisms, and combined with your textbook and classroom knowledge, helps you apply this knowledge to clinical vignettes.

syphilis usmle microbiology

6. Lastly, and this advice isn’t specific to SketchyMedical, but I firmly believe that doing as many practice questions as you can to be essential to success on the USMLE Step 1.

I probably did 8,000-10,000 practice USMLE Step 1 questions, and eventually got to the point where I knew what the question would be asking just by reading the first couple sentences because I had seen the same topic expressed repeatedly through many different angles.

I would read the answer explanations for every single question and each answer choice (some sources go more in depth and have better explanations than others so use your judgment). Doing more questions will also help you remember important facts about a topic and further serves to help solidify SketchyMedical’s artistic creativity.

To recap, my tips for USMLE success are:

how to get 270 on usmle step 1

In conclusion, I hope some of this advice can be implemented into your study plan and contribute towards a successful and satisfying Step 1 score! Happy studying and feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions! We should all be grateful for this amazing and essential resource!

Good luck, and thanks for reading!


For more on USMLE Step 1 Prep, check out:




How to Prepare for USMLE Step 1 Over Winter Break

how to prepare for the usmle step 1

Hooray winter break is finally here!

I know the last thing you want to think about right now is the USMLE Step 1, amidst the holidays and relaxing with family. But as we constantly assert – the USMLE Step 1 is a marathon, not a sprint.  In this spirit, treat your winter break as a scheduled part of your USMLE Step 1 preparation.

Winter break also officially marks the 6 month period out from your school’s dedicated study period (at least for most students).

Here is our advice on how to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 over winter break:

  1. Take an NBME practice exam
    • This is a great way to assess your readiness for the boards; your weaknesses and strengths, and where to focus your USMLE Step 1 studying plan.  Then create a plan to gradually improve your weak subjects over the next few weeks, before you start your dedicated USMLE Step 1 studying. Pharmacology and Microbiology and often trouble areas for students, so get your Sketchy on now – a Free trial is always available!
  2. Take this time to buckle down and create a detailed USMLE Step 1 study plan, especially focusing on strengthening your weak subject(s).  Be sure to include:
    • Enough time to sleep!  Getting enough sleep is essential to help solidify memory.
    • Schedule in regular exercise – exercise is a great way to relieve stress for the upcoming test
    • Find your ideal study spot – you know how you study best – find your ideal spot void of distractions where you are comfortable and can spend hours studying for the USMLE Step 1.
  3. And most of all – enjoy the holidays and the break!
    • For a fun activity over winter break, watch my favorite Christmas movie – Santa’s List, featuring listeria monocytogenes 
    • Also, when to start your official USMLE Step 1 studying

sketchymedical listeria

A Day in the Life of a Pediatric Resident

This Sunday I thought I’d give a little “spin…” to the popular posts on a day in the life as a doctor.. So without further adieu, here is A Day in the Life of a Pediatric Resident…

day in the life of a pediatric resident


“A Day in the Life” (of a Pediatric Resident)

0515 “I’m Only Sleeping”
I roll over to silence the obnoxious alarm on my phone and try to snooze for a bit. I’m tired;  back-to-back calls are wearing me down. Five minutes later another alarm goes off, louder than the first (I generally set three alarms in the morning to avoid being late for wards).

0525 “I’m So Tired”
After a quick perusal of the latest gossip on Facebook and review of both my academic and nonacademic emails, it’s time to get up and tackle the day…

It takes me a bit to get ready for my day, so I wake up early. I have to shower, shave, brush, and (sometimes) floss my teeth. Not to mention, selecting the right pair of tennis shoes to go with my dress clothes and bowtie. One of the best parts of pediatrics is the dress code… I haven’t worn a white coat in over a year and I get to wear different color tennis shoes every day of the week!

0600 “Here Comes the Sun”
I dash out the door and walk two blocks to the children’s hospital. I’m not a fan of commuting, so living close to work was a huge necessity for me. I race the sun as I walk in the back door of the building and head up 4 flights of stairs. I’m early. Most seniors don’t arrive until 0700, but I know the more things are squared away before rounds, the smoother the day will go. I check in with the two interns on my team and get a rapid sign-out on what happened over night.

0630 “With a Little Help From My Friends”
As a team we divvy up the day’s workload and find adjacent computers in order to facilitate communication. I scroll through the day’s patients and write down vitals, subjective events, labs, and what I think the day’s plan should be.

“Senioring” is new to me… I miss writing the detailed notes and knowing everything that was happening to my patients.  Now, I am responsible for twice as many patients and developing my own plans for treatment. It’s nerve-racking, but luckily I have proactive interns that call consults without prompting.


0700 “All Together Now”
Gradually, the other seniors filter in and we touch base and tie up some loose ends before seeing patients. I fill my co-senior in on yesterday’s events and we go over the vitals and consult notes for each patient.

0740 “Helter Skelter”
Times up! We have to go see all of our patients before Morning Report at 0800. There’s no way we can see 17 patients in 20 minutes…

We start at the 5th floor and work our way down one patient at a time. My co-senior is incredibly efficient, waving from the door and giving brief updates. I tend to get caught in rooms updating families and answering questions. “Alright, we’ll be around in a bit,” my co-senior would cut me off and lead me out of the room. One after another, we see all our patients, checking them off as we stop in.

0820 “Act Naturally”
Better late than never, right? We sneak in the back door and find an empty seat in the back. I love AMR at the Children’s Hospital! Instead of having the post-call team present a patient while they are half asleep, we have Attendings select a case to present. We avoid eye contact with the presenter, in an attempt to evade getting called on. It never works… And we answer the questions the best we can.

0900 “The Long and Winding Road”
Time for rounds… I’m not a huge fan of rounds, my attention starts to wane around hour two. Fortunately, this week we are doing patient-centered rounds, meaning that we go into the room as a team with the nurse and case-manager. Sure, it is pretty intimidating to have 10 people waltz in the room; but it does lend to better patient care because this allows the whole team to hear the plan. In my opinion, this is much more effective than sit-down rounds.


1030 “Carry That Weight”
As a senior on rounds, I am constantly multitasking. One of us will page nurses and pull up labs on command, and the other will update our sign-outs and manage admits. And to the best of our ability we have to catch the plan for each patient. Today is my day to do admits. My waistband is full, 3 pagers and two phones; constantly juggling each. I hate being pulled away from rounds, but a major part of Senioring is learning how to manage others – triage and delegate tasks.


1145 “The End”
Finally… We wrap up rounds and gather in the workroom. Time to run the list, RTL if you will. Running the list consists of reviewing what tasks need to be done and who can take care of it. It’s gonna be a rough afternoon – my co-senior and one of the interns are going to clinic today. The other intern and I will be flying solo this afternoon, admitting and managing the team.

1210 “Two of Us”
I send the rest of the team to lunch and get to work on unresolved tasks before admits start piling up.


1250 “A Taste of Honey”
I run over to noon conference and grab food before it is put away. It’s burrito day, my favorite!!! (lunch is provided everyday – much better than what is on offer at the hospital cafeteria!)I make a plate and head back to the work room. The admit phone goes off just before the ED change of shift. 19095. I call back and get 3 admits… Bummer. I give one to the other team and get started on the other two.
1345 “Help!”
I see each of the admits briefly and place basic orders. I prep the intern on what information to gather and she goes down to the ED to meet the patients and get the full story. In the mean time, I go and write TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) orders before 3pm.

1510 “Fixing a Hole”
The intern returns with the histories and we formulate a plan. I go back and fill in the gaps and we call the specialists to review the orders. We present the three admits to our attending and he goes to meet them before heading home for the day.

1600 “Here, There and Everywhere”
There is a lull in admissions (calm before the storm). We take this time to catch up on notes and update families. I make a trip to each floor, searching for specialists before they go home. My personal phone begins to go off… It’s my attending. “Why haven’t these patients been discharged?” the message asks. I apologize for my tardiness. Excuses are useless. The families don’t care what the hold up is. Secluded to their own room, they are unaware of the number of patients and tasks we take care of in a given day. I sit down and start writing up the discharge summaries. I curse my teammates as I come across blank summaries and look back at the histories to generate the summaries. I can’t blame them, we all get busy and miss things.

1645 “Misery”
It’s getting close to the next ED sign-out. Another 2 admissions come from downstairs and 3 arrive from outside adult hospitals. I check on the transfers first because you never know what you are going to get… We have had children transferred to the floor in PICU status. That’s why we have to eyeball and assess every patient that hits the floor. One patient gets transferred up stairs, just as one of my conversion disorder patients starts to have “seizure-like activity.” I don’t have time for this… I assess the catatonic patient and reassure the mother briefly and state that I will return as soon as possible. Meanwhile, our sister team is ready to sign-out and is waiting in the workroom.

1730 “It’s All Too Much”
I finally make it back to the workroom and the other team is waiting impatiently with printed lists in hand. Heaven forbid they wait for 30 minutes, while the intern and I get things settled down for 20 minutes. It’s impossible to go without being paged during afternoon sign-out. I just pray that the other team tied up everything before they go home. There is nothing worse than having to update a disgruntled family when you have never seen them before in your life. But, some things are unavoidable…

1815 “Get Back”
Another 2 new admissions hit the floor, at this point I am triaging from one task to the next. I have the other team take the admit phone because it is ringing off the hook as outside hospitals try to transfer their pediatric patients before the evening. The next hour will be damage control until 1900, when we stop admitting. I check on all my patients and answer urgent pages as promptly as possible. I take the intern’s pager and send her off to do two of the three admissions.

1902 “Twist and Shout”
We made it! No more admits this evening, the house staff senior comes on and does admissions for an hour and a half until the night team arrives. It’s crunch time! The intern and I divide up tasks and prepare our sign out to the night team.

2025 “Don’t Let Me Down”
We complete our sign-out and she print out lists for the overnight team. I have the intern go over the pertinent information for the night team and fill in the gaps with contingency plans. It’s hard for me to let go of the responsibility and pass on tasks, but eventually you have to let some things go because otherwise you never leave the hospital. Sleep is a hot commodity on wards and I try to get as much as I can.

2100 “Let It Be”
After sign-out, I send the intern home. I review her notes and then go back and update the electronic sign-out and place missing orders. If there is time, I try to swing back and update any families still in the hospital, before walking home.

2215 “Good Night”
I grab a deliciously unhealthy dinner and sit down to an episode of the Twilight Zone before falling asleep. Only another 6 hours until I get do it all again.

And that’s a day in the life of a pediatric resident! At least I love my job, otherwise I may be hating life right about now…



Movie Rounds: Arrival Movie Review

Movie Rounds: review of Arrival


arrival movie review

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

Story: Ted Chiang

Production:  FilmNation EntertainmentLava Bear Films; 21 Laps Entertainment

Runtime: 116 minutes

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker


Of the two movies I’ve seen this year about Amy Adams hanging out with aliens, Arrival is the clear winner. This is one of those movies that’s nearly impossible to talk about without spoiling, so for those benighted of the glory that is Arrival, I beg thee to witness Dennis Villeneuve’s newest masterpiece. It’s based on “Story of Your Life”, a science-fiction short story by Ted Chiang that explores the ramifications of linguistic relativity when its lead character is tasked with communicating with alien visitors during first contact. Go see it with your friends. I promise that the conversations you have after the movie may match the actual film in duration and quality. Best of all, even though it’s easily the smartest movie I’ve seen all year, it seldom bogs in its 116 minute length. You might even cry.




Other good reasons:


– It’s not my favorite Dennis Villeneuve movie, but it has that characteristic tension that permeates most scenes. With a few exceptions, you will not be bored.
– Amy Adams is super good in it (thankfully, since she dominates 80% of human-related screentime). The rest of the cast is solid as well.
– Joe Walker’s masterful editing (Sicario, director Steve McQueen’s outstanding three features) keeps the movie ticking and effective with its characteristic dialogue-sparse and restrained cuts. There’s a lot of formalist editing (very Soviet montage theory) due to the subject nature, but it never feels “art-film-incomprehensible” and does a great job showing instead of telling.
– I was worried this movie wouldn’t match the beauty of Prisoners or Sicario now that DP Roger Deakins was replaced by Bradford Young, but this movie is gorgeous. The scene where they introduce the aliens had the visual splendor of the introductory shot of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park; I swear if the moment had an equally memorable musical cue (and I guess the box office success too), it’d definitely join our film lexicon. I looked him up after the movie, and realized I knew his work from Selma and A Most Violent Year – two other movies also greatly boosted by their visuals.
So yeah, go see it. Best of all, that way you can tell me why the below is totally wrong.


Okay, I’ll be honest now that unsuspecting innocents have left. When I first came out of the theater, I was a little disappointed.

I have adored Dennis Villeneuve’s movies – each one has enthralled, shocked, and most rarely of all, challenged my ideas about film or geopolitics or society. Prisoners made me re-examine the morality central to the revenge thriller genre. Enemy made me re-examine what a thriller even is, all while it was redefining manhood for me too. Sicario had me in hypertensive urgency for two hours, wishing Benicio del Toro got more roles, and then had me brooding in my thoughts for days. I love it!
So I had really high expectations – unfairly, I might add. After all, Arrival is a movie about first contact, time travel, and global humanity: the vast majority of films that explore any one of any one these themes do so quite poorly. Even more ambitiously, it’s interested in looking at these issues through the archaic lens of linguistics, a subject most common people (including me) know little or nothing about, all while promoting a message of harmony and enlightenment, both increasingly rare fixtures in today’s political landscape.

But – there are just so many unexplained plot holes. And so many unanswered questions. Most probably have an answer that I don’t understand (would love to hear), but I don’t think all.

First things first, though. Given the subject matter, there’s a good chance I don’t understand this movie as intended, and while authorial intent is a complex and fun discussion to have, I also know that it’s super important to some people.


So here’s what I’m pretty sure happened: twelve rocks flew to Earth filled with aliens called heptapods who have a language, understanding which, for some reason, allows time travel (I guess this is the linguistic relativity theory part of it – I get what they’re going for, but I didn’t feel like the movie sold it to me). Amy Adams learns the language, obtains the ensuing superpower, and, while the world is busy losing its shit, realizes that the heptapods are there to gift said superpower to all of humanity so that they can save the heptapods in 3000 years.

Meanwhile, she has a Chinese general give her a phone number and a private message in the future so that she can call him in the past and stop him from attacking the clearly superior aliens. She also learns that she’s going to hook up with Hawkeye and have a child who had cancer, and then chooses to have the kid anyway, despite cancer and knowing that Hawkeye will leave her afterwards.
I think? So here’s what I don’t get: how much control does Amy Adams have over her power? If she can say yes/no to having the kid, does she have power of telling Hawkeye or not? Why doesn’t she teach Hawkeye, her future husband, the language? Why can’t he use his powers to see cancer kid? What about having her daughter’s genome studied at birth so maybe they could find a solution to the cancer even before it begins? How does giving humans time travel powers help the heptapods in 3000 years? Why come in 12 ships? I know they’re trying to be metaphorical, but isn’t language clearly more of a cornerstone of civilization than science? How do you “organize knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe” before the ability to communicate any of that?


I’d love to hear valid answers to the above, and maybe they’ll crazily change the way I look at the movie, but I think I’m nitpicking about a science fiction movie, which rarely leads to good discussion. On the plus side, the logical quandaries above notwithstanding, I don’t really have any other legitimate complaints.


I’ve already gushed about the editing in Arrival, but can we talk about how beautifully this film uses montage? At times, as with the scenes of the scientists learning heptapod, the film uses montage efficiently to maintain its pace. Other times, it uses it to convey an esoteric idea visually, such as that of the heptapod language as a vehicle for the mind transcending time: by the time it states outright (via heptapod subtitles) what’s going on, the film had prepared me so well and so subliminally that I felt brainwashed. Most genius of all is its use of the opening montage of Amy Adams playing with her daughter to set the tone and the stage, and then spring it on the audience later in the film to deliver a knockout-punch of a revelation that we had seen the future from the beginning.


The script deserves a mention as well. Dialogue is parsimonious, intelligent, urbane, and at times funny. The recurring motifs of sight and discovery as panacea to the blind fear and lazy nihilism that characterized the film’s world (and reminded me of ours) underlined the film’s theme of progress. I hope somebody does an analysis of the all symbols in the movie – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the shape of a contact lens as a stand-in for vision in a film before. So future!
I never know how to end these, and I really want to re-watch this movie… so, bye! Go watch Arrival! Maybe even if you’ve already seen it!


In summary: definitely go see Arrival if you like beautiful movies that make you think deep thoughts and/or if you are a Amy Adams fan.  At this point in time, I probably think it’s my favorite movie I’ve seen this year.


Doctor R.


PS: if you haven’t heard of Abbott and Costello – they’re the guys who invented a sketch so influential that a recording made it into the Library of Congress

PPS: fun fact – The language in this film was birthed by the same engine that runs the always amazing Wolfram Alpha

PPPS: for more intergalactic fun, check out Revenge of the Ceph in SketchyPharm!

sketchymedical antibiotics